January 21, 2010

the bright side of Scott Brown

It's taken me a couple days to transition away from my initial shock and nausea at the special election news from my home state of Massachusetts. I (like, apparently, a lot of other people) was not concerned that Ted Kennedy's senate seat would go to the GOP. Despite harbingers of this upset in recent poll numbers, in the lackluster Dem candidate, in the populist groundswell indicating an agitated right wing in the Bay State, I just didn't think this would happen. I guess that's why they're calling it an ambush. We now find ourselves, unexpectedly transported overnight to a dramatically altered political landscape. What did Harry Reid say? The math in the Senate is different. Bye-bye filibuster-proof majority. So long, punitive measures for carbon emissions, and very importantly, who the fuck knows what's going to happen to Health Care reform?
My hope is this: We will still get, in place of the above, government incentivized R and D for green technologies and huge government support to private sector initiatives to get them off and running (lord knows there is enough going on in competing economies to make Private Sector USA want to invest hugely in green technology, like, yesterday), and hopefully we will still get the regulatory measures for the insurance industry that are the meatiest part of currently drafted health care reform legislation. It's the incredible shrinking legislation, but these regulatory measures might still happen mainly because there is public awareness that has been growing for a couple years now of how ethically unacceptable the current business practices of the insurance industry are. My guess is that those in Congress probably sense that awareness at their doorsteps and will see it as being in their best personal interests to support increased regulation and penalties in this case. Of course, it also depends what the insurance industry has decided is in it's best interests at this point, and how much they are willing to offer to who to further their agenda. So we'll see.
The two reasons I really decided not to light myself on fire, though, are as follows:
One, I am not a fan of political dynasties, or entrenched, taken-for-granted seats of power. Though I am an admirer of the Kennedys (Boston Irish, so in a way, I can't help myself), I think there is a problem in my home state of Massachusetts with adulation of that clan and their annointed successors, which to me is a sad indication that the good people of Mass are still getting a much-too-shitty education, in Civics, if not in other things. I might have supported Hillary Clinton for president in 2008, but I didn't like the stink of dynasty that was all over her. I relished the election of Obama (and worked for it), in part because it was an ambush, and as such, the best evidence of the health of our Democracy. I would be a hypocrite if I didn't give Scott Brown (pictured above in his now-famed Cosmo centerfold photo) the same nod of appreciation that I give the President and his team. In what very well may prove to be a more important election than that of Nov.4, 2008, on monday Massachusetts gave us a pop quiz on the lesson we all should have learned about this Political system back then: Expect the unexpected, take nothing for granted, and if you want to win, you have to work harder than the other guy. If the other guy beats you, you concede, you mope about it for 24 hours, and then you get back to work with a newly sharpened awareness of the degree to which you cannot let yourself get so fucking lazy if you want to accomplish anything. Another thing about our Political System; a lot of people in Mass are dissapointed right now, but they had a chance to participate, and they will have a chance to participate again. They lost this time, and they're not happy, but nobody is shooting all his Republican neighbors and burning their houses down. That's called participatory democracy and peaceful transfer of power. Which brings me to my next point.
even taking it's huge flaws into account, we are incredibly lucky to live in a participatory democracy, and we shouldn't take it for granted. A couple days after Scott Brown won his senate seat, four Vietnamese Democracy advocates were sentenced to between 5 and 16 years in prison for daring to state publicly that they think it would be good if Vietnamese people could participate in the political life of their country. These guys were charged with subversion and attempting to overthrow Vietnam's one-party Communist state simply for mentioning that they like the idea of democracy, freedom, and human rights, and they are just part of a larger crackdown on pro-democracy Vietnamese people that's been going on lately. Maybe if Vietnam gets what we have they'll realize how infuriating it is and they won't want it anymore, but as for me, I'll take Scott Brown over Nguyễn Phú Trọng any day.